After all the upsets, surprises and breakthroughs, we didn't have a new World Cup winner this time, but France a well-deserved winner.
Match of the tournament: I am torn between Portugal vs Spain and Belgium v Japan. Maybe the latter cos the stake is higher. Unbelievable drama. Matches that will be talked about for a long time.
Player of the tournament: conventional choice is Modric (Croatia), but he was quite pedestrian for a few matches (except for critical moments), I thought Eden Hazard (Belgium) really came through in this tournament.
Goal of the tournament: Toni Kroos' last minute injury time free kick against Sweden. It's more of personal choice — it was so dramatic and important and the relief and joy it brought (to Germany fans). I thought this goal would save Germany's tournament. Unfortunately, it didn't.
Biggest disappointment: Germany — I still believed they would pull through until the first South Korea goal. Argentina — they were Germany with a bit more luck.
Unique moments: we were in Antwerp when Beligum beat Brazil. It was a noisy, crazy (the Belgian kind) evening, where we saw the street celebrations unfold while sipping cocktails in a bar run by a Portuguese.( Read more...Collapse )
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Mood in England — Southgate for Prime Minister!
Croatia — If they went into the final by winning 3 consecutive penalty-shootout, then they must be even luckier than England in this World Cup.
France — Giroud doesn't need to score for France. He provides plenty... for on and off the pitch fans.
Belgium — I am warming up to them, even though they have players like, erm, Fellaini. Especially having witnessed their "orderly, quick to apologise if they bump into you" behaviour during their celebration first hand (whereas in England, they thought destroying ambulances was fun)
May the best teams go to the final.
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A tale of two roads
16 teams fighting for quarter-finals places on two routes: one filled with France, Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, Belgium - all the old and new heavyweights. And the other with one confirmed heavyweight - Spain, an over-achieving host, two 2nd Tier European teams and er... England.
Predictably, the former route produced at least 2 of the best matches of this tournament (France v Argentina, Belgium v Japan), while the other road produced 3 boring matches (Switzerland v Sweden, Croatia v Denmark, Colombia v England), unless you are a fan of penalty shoot-out.
Judging by their Last 16 performance, it’s a almost joke that one of these teams (Croatia, Sweden, Russia, England) will be in the final.
Best teams so far (update): France (turning on style), Brazil (Firmino over Jesus, please).... and on a minor note - Belgium (all credit to the amazing Japan team who pushed them to the limit)
Best players so far (update): Mbappe of France, Cavani of Uruguay (ok ok, it’s just that one match)
If you ask me now Who will be in semi-finals: Brazil (after extra time)/Belgium in penalty, France in 90mins/Uruguay in penalty, Sweden (1-0) and Croatia (after penalty)
And I will be watching these four matches in Belgium. Later.
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So now there are 16...The usual suspects:
Brazil, Spain, France and Argentina all through with the Argentines in extreme 85th Minute Goal close shave. Causalties (mega team category):
Germany was the first mega-team casualty and deservedly so. I can’t see manager Löw surviving this - not in the manner they lost - it’s much worse than their 2004 Euro exit which prompted a complete overhaul. Note to the future World Cup winners: when defending the title, don’t bring players who have already won it, “hunger to win” is very often the difference.Causalties (continent category):
Japanese politeness (getting less yellow cards) means the Africa’s last hope, Senegal, was eliminated. Best team so far (update):
based on group matches - Croatia; based on skills - Brazil (better if they play Bobby Firmino instead of G.Jesus and Neymar stops rolling around every 10 mins)Unknowns:
(1)Belgium - beating Tunisia, Panama and training day win over England is not achievement. (2) France - I still think Dechamps is going to ruin all these individual talents. Croatia - they have the momentum and the players, but so many of teams like them peter-out when it comes to knocked-out stage.Surprises:
Japan (though I can’t see them going any further), Poland (can’t believe how bad they were), Switzerland (looks like they no longer just try to bore everyone with draws)Best matches so far:
Spain v Portugal, Germany v Sweden, Brazil v Costa Rica, Nigeria v ArgentinaLast note:
England fans rejoiced that they lost to Belgium and got 2nd place, and on the route that avoid Brazil, France and Argentina. I think Switzerland beating them in QF would be sweet justice.And if I have to bet on a final now:
Brazil v Spain
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We’ve seen every team - at least once by now.
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(1) The best team so far: Spain - even though they drew the opening game, but that was due to (2)
(2) The best player so far: Cristiano Ronaldo - he’s so good you forgot he’s a bit of a dick.
(3) The biggest disappointment so far: Germany - who urgently need to find their disappearing full backs and their ruthlessness. Even if they could come out of this group, they’d be eliminated in last 16 in such form.
(4) A parade of “one man” teams: Egypt (Mo Salah - unfortunately Sergio Ramos broke 100m Egyptian hearts), Portugal (see best player), Argentina (Messi - might be his last World Cup to prove), Senegal (Sadio Mane -turns out the whole Senegal isn’t half bad), Brazil (Just kidding - only Neymar thinks Brazil is “his” team)
(5) Iceland: now representating countries who hate England and didn’t qualify themselves (eg. Ireland, Scotland)
(6) Goal, Goal Goal - so far there has not been any goalless draw, which might be a record.
(7) VAR: I am for it, I think it’s not whether it should be used (cos that’s a definite yes), it’s about fine tuning how to manage it.
A quick last 16 prediction: Russia, Uruguay, Portugal, Spain, France, Denmark, Argentina, Iceland, Brazil, Switzerland, Mexico, Germany, Belgium, England, Senegal, Poland.
Opening match is a bit underwhelming (Russia v Saudi Arabia), unless you count the political undercurrent between the two countries. Football wise, they are quite terrible. But please, surprise me.
Some thoughts before the madness begins:
1. MIA - This World Cup is without a few big names: Italy, Netherlands, both failed to qualify. The Italians will be particularly missed but the German team might be secretly relieved that their two historical arch-rivals are not there. If only someone can get rid of Spain for them too. ( Read more...Collapse )
The USA is also missing, failed to qualify at their final match under spectacularly unlucky combination of results in their group. So now we will never know under Trump America, if liking "football" would be consider as unpatriotic/un-American; or because it's hosted in Russia, they would have given the team full fanfare. Well, there's still the 2026 World Cup to look forward to.
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June had been busy - the first week of Euro 2016 with 3 matches a day, at least because of it, I didn't have to watch any of them EU referendum debates on tv.
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Then the Brexit vote came (as I've predicted since Cameron announced it back in 2013). Because it's one thing your European neighbours might think you are a bunch of racists, after this own goal, they know you are a bunch of racists.
Back to Euro 2016. Who do we love:
Germany: pundits complained they are not consistent, erm, by German standard. But I think they have been solid, hasn't conceded any goal. Although the unfortunate draw that put them in a quarter-final with Italy (Germany's bogey team, they never beat them in big tournaments), makes me worried. Hence I've put a emotional hedge £10 bet on Italy to win. That way - either way, I will have something to celebrate.
France: Definitely a better team than two years ago. Pogba and Payet show breathtaking brilliance occasionally. With the home advantage, they have good chance - though this team might still need another 2-4 years...
Italy: when they couldn't get out of group stage two years ago in Brazil, I said, don't worried, they will be back soon. And I was right. Italy is quite simply, the best tournament national team. They beat a Spain that have clearly passed their prime but still lethal. Their team spirit is high and they are the only one who seem to know how to beat Germany (since 1970s), so yeah, they have a good chance.
Portugal: Getting into semi without winning a single match within 90 mins. So they have luck. But I don't think it will be enough.
Iceland: they deserved a medal for kicking the mediocre England out of Euro. Extra points for beating them in their own style of play - except Iceland played it with determination, skills and team spirits. When that match was over, my Spanish friend in London texted me "HAHAHAHAHA", shortly followed by my fire crackers and smiley emoji reply. I blame this on Brexit. But seriously, I think people (and apparently the whole England team) forgot that Iceland beat Netherlands home and away on qualifying round, so ignore them at your own peril.
Belgium: great talents there, but I don't feel the heart. It's a cliche, sometimes, that's the difference between top teams.
Wales: Bales is overrated, so is the whole Wales team achievement. They are a very average team. Lost to England, beat the tournament's worst team Russia and got into QF by beating another below average team, Northern Ireland. I was rooting for N. Ireland during that match because now we know Wales are a bunch of Brexiters, but the match was so boring, I was relieved that Wales won, so I didn't have to suffer extra time.
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Brett can still sing well live. Lot of songs from first two albums - so no complaints.
Surprises: Killing of a Flashboy, The Living Dead
It's over for 4 days now, I am back normal tv viewing.
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Was it a better World Cup? Maybe. Probably not to the Brazilians. And I actually liked the 2010 German national team better than this one. But it doesn't matter, they have finally got the job done.
These are the moments still stayed in my mind:
1. Fail high-five: "cool" van Gaal wanted to show how cool he was. But failed.
2. Van Persie's zero gravity goal: the first bang of this World Cup.
3. The bite: Suarez maybe a troubled moron, but he's a better game-changing footballer than Messi.
4. That strange German freekick: it's weird stuff because they didn't score, it would have been genius if it worked. In any case, the confusion on the referee's face was priceless.
5. Attack by giant grasshopper: James Rodriguez lost the match but gained everyone's admiration, including the giant insect.
6. Brazil 1 Germany 7: in any case, Brazil already lost its popularity by the way they played against Colombia. Germany just scooped in to hammer the fact in: this Brazilian team was average with Neymar, hopeless without T. Silva.
Caption: cakes baked by Klinsmann's parents' bakery.
Winning goal: the final is a much improvement from 2006's (penalty shoot-out) and 2010's (the Dutch kicked and punched, the Spanish bored everyone with pass, pass, pass). Germany has skills, patience and determination. They wanted to win with attack and a winning goal. They got one deserved to be called just that.
Cosmopolitan Germany: they used to all look like Rudi Völler, German footballers. Er... except Klinsmann, of course. Now 10 years after Klinsmann and Löw started the transformation, the German team is cosmopolitan, multi-cultural, winning worldwide fans with their attacking style, and apparently, very well-dressed too.
Things I would soon forget:
1. England's group stage exit: it's like a broken record.
2. Messi's destiny: blah blah blah. Apparently, he's not that good outside Barcelona. Really don't care.
3. Italy's early exit: don't worry, they will be back soon.
4. America's finally get soccer: everyone in the west seemed to want them to embrace the sport, but let's see how it goes in 4 years time.
In the end, we are back to the usual semi-final suspects: Brazil, Germany, Argentina and Netherlands. And only Netherlands would be first time winner if they prevail in the end.
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So what I've learned in quarter-finals:
Dirty Brazil: two consecutive World Cup quarter-final exit (2006, 2010) would do that to you. Shame about Neymar's injury, but more shocking is people's (or twitter's) response: Brazil reaped what they sowed by its own violent aggressive play.
Never call your team the golden generation: didn't work for England, didn't work for Belgium either. Proof that a good national team is not about forming a dream team.
The pain of being German coach: you get criticized no matter what you do. 18 years without a trophy is not acceptable, no matter how many new fans Germany won in the last 8 years.
Tricky Netherlands: now that they finally put a "we" in their team, Netherlands continued to supply the most exciting matches. Too bad that they are meeting Argentina when they too, finally play as a team.
A Germany-Netherlands final would be too much for my heart. Neutral fans would love a Brazil vs Argentina final. But depressingly, I think it will be Brazil vs Netherlands.
Quarter-finals. Things appeared to have been restored to normal. All the group winners have beaten the 2nd place winners to reach the last 8. The only pre-tournament surprises left are Colombia and Costa Rica. But it hadn't been an easy ride for any of the last 8, except maybe, Colombia, who beat a Uruguay sans Suarez.
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As Germany's Mertesacker said after Germany's laboured win: 'I don't know what you want from me - do you think that just Mickey Mouse teams are involved in the last 16?'
So what did I learned from the last-16 matches?
It's a Goalkeepers' World Cup: from Mexico's Ochoa, USA Tim Howard's record breaking number of saves, to Germany's Neuer's sweeper-keeper role. The goalkeepers saved their team, whether it led to victory or not in the end.
If you don't have time, you can turn up to watch the last 10 mins and the extra time: apparently that's when the drama/goals happen.
Luck: one team in the final is going to be a team that get there almost by sheer luck. And it's likely to be Argentina.
You can park the bus for 120 minutes, but you'd lose in the end if you don't have a good finisher: that's the reason why USA, Switzerland and Greece failed to progress. And sometimes it's just wood work obstacle.
the Dark Horse finally arrives: it took a determined USA to bring out the best in a promising Belgium team.
England fans now wanting a winner from Latin America: so they can add "European teams don't do well in World Cup hosted in South America" to their list of reasons for failure.
Robben: the diva(er); Messi: the lone saint; Howard: the new American god; Lukaku: the redeemer; Neuer: the new Beckenbauer.
The conservative prediction of semi-finalists would be: Brazil, Argentina, Germany and Netherlands. But it could well be: Colombia, Belgium, France and Netherlands.
Two weeks on. So many casualties.
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England: - it has definitely dampened the World Cup fever here. Early exit. Gary Lineker sounds bitter and cynical with every team he considers inferior to England progresses (Greece, USA, Switzerland, Algeria). I don't know why it still came as a surprise to them - before this World Cup, they weren't even beating teams they should in friendly matches. The bitter truth is that England is not one of the powerhouses in Europe as they'd like to believe. They are Switzerland, Denmark, Sweden; the second tier teams that occasionally not even qualify for the tournament (as England missed 3 World Cups).
Italy: too bad Pirlo was only effective against England who were foolish enough to give him so much space. This Italian team look tired and out of ideas.
Latin power: so far South American teams are winning. Apart from Uruguay who did that with some bite, all other are well deserved. Chile almost caused a major upset yesterday with Brazil. And Colombia keeps on surprising pundits.
Netherlands: group statistics showed that they were the dirtiest team (committed most fouls), but they also have the fastest striker in Robben. I still think they are unstoppable if Robben stays in this form. Let's see how tactical Mexico will deal today.
Germany: they can score, but their back isn't safe. Germany is now playing attractive attacking football but not getting the trophies they took for granted when they were conservative and cunning (ie, before Klinsmann transformed them in 2006)
Brazil and Argentina: still not convinced by either of them. But it's very likely that they will be in the final.
France: are they real deal? Will find out in knock out stage when they face a stronger team. Chances are there will be a France vs Germany quarter-final in waiting.
USA: latest is that Klinsmann has changed his tune to USA could be in the final and asked the team families to change travel plan. My suspicion is that he did it to appease the US press. I like watching the US team, they are tough to break, but getting to the final? Hmmm.
We have been preparing for this World Cup since we got back from US - we took my US TV with us (it doesn't work with UK signals), thinking we could just watch dvd, iTunes and other internet stuff with it - but told ourselves we will get a brand new giant tv when the next World Cup comes.
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So we got a new smart tv last month.
Back to Brasil 2014. One week on: Spain is out. England will be out soon.
Spain is out (in spectacular empire crumbling manner)
I was never a big fan of their brand of tiki-taka possession football. Turned out you can't play that style without a super goalie. And I think eventually teams figured out how to beat them.
England... Well, we know the storyline. Media was saying expectations was at its lowest this time, but still two games without a point is... historical. Defence was horrendous makes you miss having John Terry, and that's a scary thought.
So who's doing great:
Italy - one name: PIRLO (channeling Al Pacino from Serpico this year).
Well, maybe two names: Balotelli
Netherlands: unstoppable if Robben and van Persie stay in such form.
Germany: not a surprise they scored 4 goals in the opening match. They do it regularly in World Cup. My only worry for the Germans is still - how they choke when they play against Italy.
France: I am glad they seem a whole lot better than last time and didn't seem to miss Ribery. But I need to see them against a better side to know.
Brazil: well, it will be stupid not to bet on them, but they failed to impress so far. Passing the ball to Neymar and hope he does his magic is not a valid strategy. And Fred was just useless.
Argentina: proof that Messi is no Maradona. If you cannot bend the game (or lift your not-so-world-class teammates) to suit you, you are not Maradona.
Other teams of interest:
Belgium: they are the bookies' #5 favourite to win the World Cup, lots of hype. But realistically, the talents are too inexperienced to win the final. Could be a surprise semi-finalist.
USA: with German engineering this time, I'd have fancied their chances more, if they aren't in the Group of Death. Courageously lucky against Ghana. I dare anyone not at least be a bit moved by Brooks' winning goal reaction, and I usually despise nationalism.
Hong Kong: they aren't there. But when I was in town few weeks ago, I was amazed by the huge marketing campaign there, including giant (manga) footballers statues outside the malls. But with matches playing at 3 or 4am in Hong Kong, how many are actually watching?
Well, let's see if Italy delay England's demise today by beating Costa Rica today.
Morrissey Still has some great answers:
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Feb. 20 marked the 30th anniversary of the release of the first Smiths album. How did you mark the occasion?
Is it only 30 years? It feels like 60.
What did you wake up worrying about today?
Ukraine. Why do news reporters call the people 'protestors'? They are the people! It's the government who are the rebels. Silly world, isn't it?
Lastly, what's one piece of advice you wish someone had given you in 1984?
You should always judge a book by its cover.
First post in 2013! I know I should be doing some top 10 films of 2012 etc. But I just heard this:
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Suede's new album in a decade. Barriers is one of the singles.
First thought: it's not Butler/Anderson, so it's never going to be as good as The Tears songs. I'd rate it somewhere between Coming Up and Head Music. Brett's voice has aged well though.
Ah. Nostalgia. Still better than listening to posh ex-public school boys Blur any time.
Friend S recently explained why she's been blogging less and less: everything has moved over to Facebook because it's so much easier to upload pictures there.
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That got me thinking - so I signed up for a tumblr account for my "less words, more flour" posts,i.e. posts about random food stuff I make in my kitchen, with falsely enhanced pictures, so here you go:
Other amateurish film reviews and random rants of mine shall remain right here...
Yes, I'm still watching films. Very often. Just not blogging about them as often. Here are some latest slight disappointments:
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Haywire - I don't know what happened to Steven Soderbergh, but it appears that I have to cross him off the "auto-watch" list. If I have never seen his "Out of Sight", I'd say that Haywire shows that he can't do action film, but the former proved he could - if he wanted.
Haywire has awkward dialog delivered by a very amateurish actress; a worse than pedestrian plot (yawn, yawn, yawn); mind boggling characterisation (a spy for hire with a well-known father and address?!?) and episodic/incoherent action sequence (though looks real, compared to other action films, but hey, I was raised by Jackie Chan and Jet Li action films - their "real action" looks way cooler than Haywire's).
After the all the "Ocean 12,13,14" nonsense, the mediocre "Contagion", and now this. Yep. He's off the list.
Margaret - an ambitious "potential" masterpiece on morality and the loss of innocence. Director has too a lot he wants to say, however, much like its abrasive central character: they are not coming across clearly, leaving both audience and the characters in frustration.
The Plot: A young woman witnesses a bus accident, and is caught up in the aftermath, where the question of whether or not it was intentional affects many people's lives.
The film was shelved for 5 years due to editing disagreement between the studio and the director. At over 2.5 hours long, I'd say Margaret could have started with a tighter, more focused script and expressed it in 2 hours. The end product now is one filled with small burst of brilliance. There are some heartbreaking tender performance and intelligent observations, but as a whole, the film is an editing mess. Going from one scene to another with erratic pace. It's a great shame, the film has some complicated characters and has an authentic ring of a New York story - the fact that it reminds me why I didn't enjoy living there is good proof!
We have the semi-finals line-up, all usual suspects: Portugal, Germany, Spain and Italy. All pre-tournament favourites - ok, maybe it was Holland instead of Portugal.
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England's quarter final exit - look on the bright side:
1. As Gary Lineker said after the penalty shoot-out - at least now they can't lose to the Germans
2. They are back to the Sven-Erikssen-years level, instead of going out on last-16 (Capello) or not qualifying at all (McClaren)
Everyone is now expecting a Germany vs Spain final - there are two obstacles:
1. Germany has never beaten Italy in a major tournament knock-out stage. In fact, Italy almost always had luck or played better against the Germans. But of course, if Balotelli keeps being useless like he did against England, Germany has hope!
2. Cristian Ronald is in good form and Spain is now more insterested in doing "pass pass pass pass dive" instead of "pass pass pass score", so I don't know...
The Naughty squads, namely:
1. Holland - as always, there's no "pass the ball" in team for them.
2. France - it will be another 10 years for them to get another Zidane or Platini...if they are lucky.
3. Russia - to be honest, I never believe they would do well. They just aren't tournament team.
Sometimes it's not about winning. Great moments, so far:
1. They were expected to lose anyway. But for a short 5-minutes, the Greek euphoria after Samaras scored that perfect equalizer against the Germans, healed many Greek wounds.
2. The audacity of Andrea Pirlo's genius penalty kick against England. He has guts and... skills.
3. Sweden's Ibrahimovic's stunning goal against France - proof you can exit the tournament in style:
But I don't make pizza at home. I do Tarte Flambée - which the French might not like it if you call it a pizza. It's actually easier to manage at home than pizza - the dough is a crispy thin bread dough - you put as much creme fraiche as your health can take, add onions (caramelised first or not),smoked bacon and gruyere...
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Good for film at home or Euro 2012 on your big screen tv.
Now onto the Euro2012...
What better time to put 16 European countries together, let nationalism run high in two host countries, both with alleged institutional racism?
But we still get to see some good football. Every team has at least played one match now. Early thoughts:
1. Spain and Italy look strongest
2. Mario Gomez might have scored for Germany, but he's still no Klose. And he looks like Michael J Fox's dad in Back to the Future.
3. Now I know why Ribery punched his Bayern Munich teammate Robben - that Dutchman just won't pass the damn ball or let someone else take a free kick.
4. The English public and press have the lowest expectation for the England team this year, maybe they will finally do better.
5. Russia - one game superstar, one game mediocre... I wouldn't bet on them.
6. Ireland might not have the best team, but they have fans with a sense of humour .